Bossy, Bold Female Businesswomen
In recent weeks, Beyonce has helped Sheryl Sandberg "ban bossy"- encouraging young women globally to stop shying away from leadership roles out of fear that they'll be considered "rude" or disliked by others for being so bold. Girls' rights extraordinaire Malala Yousasfizi also made statements this month asking women of the world to stop using Facebook for just fun- and instead transitioning it to be a tool for social change. Both of these sentiments ring true at TYO as we encourage gender equality in all aspects of our programs- but they're especially applicable to the Fostering Women Entrepreneurs in the Middle East initiative, and the period of intensive incubation that 13 businesswomen are currently participating in. We've recently wrapped up a series of social media marketing trainings, where entrepreneurs used platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ to gain traction for their enterprises. This is taking hold of messages like Malala's that encourage women to take themselves more seriously on social media, and harness its power for good- whether it's building your own business, bringing attention to the challenges of female entrepreneurship, or being a bold voice for gender equity in their industries. Further, in our recent trainings with the Small Enterprise Center in Ramallah, we've been working with entrepreneurs to help them share their voices with new markets, take charge as managers in their businesses, and act as economic leaders in their communities.
So with Sheryl Sandberg and Beyonce in mind, below are a few of our favorite snippets of these excellent speeches and initiatives for women's rights as of late- and specific examples of how our FWEME project is empowering women in a similar fashion:
- In her recent speech on women's role in social media, Malala addressed the gender equality in the Western world- with particular focus on the UK- saying she was quite surprised to "hear that there are only 22 percent or less [women] in Parliament and the CEOs of big companies [are] mainly men, you realise it’s far better than other countries, but there’s still so much that needs to be done.” While Palestine has one of the lowest female labor force participation rates in the world, we're aware that women everywhere struggle for equality in the workplace- and it's an encouraging fact for entrepreneurs here to learn that girls across the globe share similar struggles. As we send businesswomen to conferences both locally and internationally, we're exposing entrepreneurs to a network of females that have fought similar barriers to success- no matter if they're from the Arab, European, or American world.
- Girls are twice as likely as boys to worry that leadership roles will make them appear "bossy". Sheryl Sandberg's new campaign to "Ban Bossy" demonstrates that young girls in the United States are much more likely to step away from leadership and boldness in fear of being judged- and in places like Palestine, this problem is exacerbated by societal restrictions and family resistance. TYO's psychosocial support helps women from northern Palestine counter this pressure to be complacent and un-confident, and our business trainings also focus on equipping women with the human resources and management skills to step into strong management positions.
- According to a recent report for the Ban Bossy campaign, almost two-thirds of male executives are hesitant to have one-on-one meetings with a more junior woman. In Palestine, women are highly hesitant to meet with men, as well- given cultural norms and gender discrimination, it's a foreign concept for many female business owners to meet with male colleagues or mentors. At TYO, we're working to promote gender equity from an early age- and for entrepreneurs, we provide opportunities for mentorship and meeting from male counterparts. But most importantly, we're focused on showing men in the region the strength of women's businesses, and helping entrepreneurs gain the confidence to combat the resistance they face from men in senior positions. Whether it's a woman struggling to have a male store manager sell her products or a bank official not taking a woman's request for a loan seriously, TYO works to instill self-confidence in entrepreneurs, and equip them with the knowledge that this is never right. As shown above, TYO also helps provide opportunities for women to market themselves throughout Palestine- as entrepreneurs like Maysaa, pictured above, sell their products at bazaars and fairs.
So while we applaud voices like Malala, Sheryl Sandberg, and Beyonce- we're also thrilled to hear the voices of Palestinian entrepreneurs joining in this global chorus calling for more bossy, bold leaders.
-Cayce, Women's Empowerment Coordinator